Established Artist – 1920–2014
Alan Davie is one of Britain’s most internationally acclaimed artists and is Scotland’s most important artist of the twentieth century. He was the first British painter – and perhaps the first of all European artists – to realise the vitality and significance of American Abstract Expressionism. Davie studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1938-40. As a young man he developed a love of the arts, wrote poetry and played the saxophone in a jazz band. In 1945 Davie was deeply impressed by two exhibitions – Picasso at the V&A and Klee at the Tate. Not long after he visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice where he came across the paintings of Jackson Pollock. Davie was inspired by American Abstract Expressionism as well as Surrealism and the Cobra group. He developed his own unique form of expression combining mythic imagery, enigmatic symbols, later taking inspiration from African and Oceanic Art as well as Zen Buddhism.
In 1956 Davie made his first trip to the United States where he was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Catherine Viviano Gallery and was introduced to Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art held a retrospective exhibition in 2000 which was followed by a survey held the following year at the Cobra Museum for Modern Art in the Netherlands. More recently, in 2003-2004, the Tate St. Ives exhibition Jingling Space celebrated Davie’s significant contribution to painting.